ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

We consistently hear from you that the discussion and interactive aspects of our workshops are highly valued. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge our assumptions, develop specific insights, and learn from one another.

A recent study supports your feedback. Last year, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy did a study for Wilberforce University on effective capacity building strategies. This exhaustive study surveyed literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer-to-peer learning (or collaborative learning) surfaced as the best capacity building approach.

Since last summer, ONEplace has been piloting peer-to-peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve learned from persons who have benefitted from other collaborative learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.

On March 6 we will hold a Peer-to-Peer Learning Forum that will include a short presentation plus opportunities to discuss and contribute to the next significant steps in this process. Your voice is a vital component, because our goal, as always, is to be a catalyst for your success.

ThomA

Just ONEthing - Feb 2014

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This month's insight comes from our Monthly Giving workshop. During the workshop, Daren Wendell (Executive Director of Active Water) described his three-year journey developing a monthly giving program. The ONEthing I pulled from his presentation is the need to do many little things – meticulously, consistently, and relentlessly. No one thing is difficult, but the discipline to persevere and stay on top of things poses perhaps the greatest challenge.

What does Daren do? Here’s a sampling:

  • Takes a long-term view (3-4 years) and expects to go slow at the beginning
  • Receipt automatically emailed to every online donor
  • Daren calls every donor who gives a one-time gift (i.e., not monthly program)
  • Daren calls every monthly donor once per quarter
  • Special monthly email newsletter to monthly givers (includes personal note from Daren)
  • High-level monthly givers receive an annual gift reflective of their mission
  • Monthly givers living locally are invited to visit the office to meet others and see pictures of programs
  • Board members gather to call & thank every donor at Thanksgiving time
  • Daren invests in and power-uses a quality donor management system – like having another staff member

Among the many benefits of a monthly giving program are consistent, predictable monthly income and the ability to set more accurate goals on other campaigns.

ThomA

Coffee with Bob Littke

This month we sit down with Bob Littke as he recalls lessons and memories from his career, including 22 years as Executive Director of Senior Services.

Tell us how you got to where you are today

I worked for 12 years in Radio and Television broadcasting. My first job in broadcasting was working with radio legend Paul Harvey in Chicago on his daily national broadcast. After completing a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1985 I left broadcasting and took my first job in human services as the Director of the St. Joseph county Commission on Aging (Michigan) where I worked for six years as Executive Director before coming to Senior Services of Southwest Michigan where I have been President and CEO for the past 22 years.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

The giving spirit of the community is what most impresses me. This community has gained national attention for its generosity and willingness to share in countless ways. Nonprofits are particularly helped by the philanthropic sector as well as by the thousands of people who volunteer each year to help others in our community.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Joseph Dunnigan was my closest mentor and he helped me in countless ways. His long history and extensive background in the community were combined with a huge heart. I often think of him and the times we spent together.

What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

There are several that come to mind, but one in particular is relevant to this conversation. Shortly after coming to Senior Services I was asked by my board to conduct a $2 million fund raising campaign. After extensive research I developed the campaign strategy and rationale. My mentor, Joe Dunnigan, wanting to help me arranged a meeting with a major foundation professional who promptly shot my entire project full of holes. While this stung at first, I was able to step back and see the concerns he had identified. After addressing all the weaknesses of my original proposal I was able to develop a winning concept that resulted in a successful campaign that raised the entire $2 million goal.

What’s an average day like for you at work?

Luckily, I am surrounded by a great staff and leadership team who help accomplish even what seems impossible at times. I’ve never believed that long hours are an indicator of success but that leadership is best when accomplished strategically. Following a well-designed strategic plan that we all have agreed to allows for a structured calendar of events and minimizes the potential for crisis management and/or uneven workloads throughout the year.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

Those things that are beyond our control are always potential sources of stress. With a background in Psychology I often remind myself that “worry is like a rocking chair…while it gives you something to do, it does not get you anywhere”.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

Belonging to organizations that bring similar organizations together has always been one of the most beneficial tools I use to stay up-to-date. While there are unlimited amounts of facts and statistical information available on-line, I find nothing more valuable than getting together with other leaders around the State and Nation and learning about new and innovative ideas from these peers.

What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Be a leader, not a manager. Managers do great things and get the job done, but leaders help set the course, determine the direction and create the vision that others need.

What do you geek?

I really enjoy flying and have been a F.A.A. licensed pilot for over 30 years. I’m also very active in my church and assist as a part time staff member.

ThomA

Hey! Where're you headed?

When was the last time your board discussed the organization’s mission and vision? How much has changed – big shifts as well as incremental changes – since that time?

We find that evaluating the mission and vision is either a glossed over exercise – not much more than a quick reaffirmation of the mission statement – or a tediously-detailed (i.e., word-smithing) part of a large strategic planning effort. Neither produces helpful results.

Yet, a biannual mission and vision evaluation serves several needs of the board. First, it takes stock of the environment in which you live and work. What’s it like today? How do we expect it to change in the next two or three years? How does this impact our long-term direction?

Second, it faces everyone in the same specific direction. It’s no good to say something akin to, “We’re heading north” (a 90-degree chunk of the compass). Rather, we need to say, “Our heading is 012 degrees.” Specificity lets everyone know exactly who we’re serving and why.

Third, and perhaps most significantly, reconnecting with the mission and vision of the organization breeds ownership. Effective fundraising, ambassadorship, and board recruitment requires personal connection to the mission of the organization. This exercise allows each board member the opportunity to engage the mission on his/her own terms…to find that personal stake. It deepens each person’s commitment and motivates their informing and inviting others.

So, I encourage taking time to evaluate your organization’s mission and vision at least every other year. ONEplace can help with resources or in facilitating the conversation. It will strengthen your connections and your resolve.

Best,

Thom

ThomA

Pages will turn

When reading a book, article or anything in hard copy, to find out what happens next you must turn the page. The act becomes a revealing – circumstances once hidden, now coming into plain sight.

Pages are turning in our area. Last week, Pretty Lake Camp announced that Michelle Karpinski would succeed Mitch Wilson as its new executive director. Michelle spent the past nine years as vice president for development at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Pages also are turning at other organizations in our area. Leadership changes, on staff as well as on the board, are inevitable. Many organizations, like the ones above, prepare for such inevitabilities. However, several others do not – an act akin to living in denial.

One mark of a “sustainable organization” is a succession plan. The plan should address the sudden departure as well as planned departure of key leadership positions – executive director, board chair, and any others where a vacancy would significantly impact the organization.

Also, the longer one has held a position, the more important this plan becomes. Often, the long-term leader holds so much knowledge, carries so many key relationships, and has become so efficient in their role that it takes more than one person to replace them. That’s an unexpected – and unwelcomed – kick in the budget.

How would you navigate a change in executive director…a change in development director? Serve your organizational well and ensure that succession plans are in place and up to date.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Read about Michelle (a 2012 ONEplace Leadership Academy grad) and her new role at Pretty Lake Camp

ThomA

Think on your feet

Prepare all you want, but most situations include several unscripted moments. We need the ability to think on our feet.

In reviewing articles on this topic, I found that some suggest stall tactics such as having the person repeat the question, you repeating the question, or asking a clarifying question. These may buy time, but sooner or later you must respond. So, what do you do?

Many take their cue from those who regularly improvise. Citing jazz musicians, for example, one coach encourages clients to be fully in the moment – focused and engaged. Advisors among all articles advocate staying positive, actively listening, and taking risks.

Our upcoming workshop, (Manage by Improv – Jan 23), explores how we think on our feet. Using improvisation games, our leaders (Improv Effects) demonstrate how we can enrich our communication skills and increase our confidence. It’s a unique angle on engaged interaction, plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Whether you can make the workshop or not, prepare for unscripted moments. Here’s an article to help with that.

Best,

Thom

P.S. Improv Effects is featured in the current issue of Encore.

ThomA

Unresolved

Tired of hearing about New Year’s resolutions? Me, too. So let’s have some fun with it.

Like many words, “resolution” has more than one meaning. For instance, resolution also refers to the sharpness of an image and the clarity of its detail. Resolution provides a measure of presentation quality, and higher resolution usually means better quality.

So, what if, instead of cramming more should’s, ought’s, or to do’s on ourselves via New Year’s resolutions, we create a high resolution New Year? We rid ourselves of the everything’s-a-priority, pixelated view of our efforts and sharpen our clarity on things that bring out the vibrant hues of our mission. That is, we bring our work into focus.

Daniel Goleman (Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence) writes daily on this topic. He identifies the myriad of distractions vying for our attention and identifies the importance of sustained, concentrated focus for insight and innovation. His suggestions include actions we can take in the workplace and beyond. For example:

When you find yourself checking your email when you should be working on something else instead, just telling yourself 'I'm distracted now' activates a brain circuit that makes it easier to drop what's irrelevant and get back to focusing on your work.

Few of us have time or energy for what’s irrelevant. So let’s make it a Hi-Res New Year.

Best,

Thom

P.S. The above example came from this brief Daniel Goleman article on Seven Ways to Sharpen Your Focus.

ThomA

Coffee with Anne Wend Lipsey

This month we sit down with Anne Wend Lipsey, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

Tell us how you got to where you are today (positions held, career shifts, etc)

I graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in secondary education, and then my husband and I moved to Ann Arbor. After studying Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, I worked for an organization doing home repair for senior citizens in Detroit. The community-based group did good work helping to keep people in their homes. We moved back to Kalamazoo, and I got involved with Ministry with Community as it was starting. I worked with their Center City Housing (precursor to Housing Resources, Inc) and with the beginning stages of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes (KLF). With KLF I helped facilitate conversations involving soup kitchens and the role of Ministry and KLF with prepared meals. After spending six months working at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, I applied to KLF and became their second office person. During this time (1984-91), KLF was very grassroots, so we did it all – from office to warehouse. I then worked for about seven years with United Way and about five years with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. During these years I got a comprehensive view of the area’s nonprofit sector and the particular experience of observing nonprofit leaders. I returned to KLF in 2003 – still a grassroots effort – and took on the task of developing it into a more stable, long-term organization.

What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?

Kalamazoo is my hometown. While I’ve lived other places, there’s just something special about Kalamazoo. People here care about the broader community. They’re willing to struggle with the big questions and take on the big issues. At the same time, there are pockets of really cool activity going on here. And it’s accessible. Kalamazoo is big enough to have Peace Jam host Nobel Peace Prize laureates and yet small enough to get from here to there without fighting traffic.

What guides or principles do you rely most upon?

I rely on groups: an incredible staff that consistently does great work, a dynamic board that asks the tough questions, and a volunteer corps that operates out of caring passion. The combination creates a great energy that’s bigger and different than any of them could do on their own.

Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?

Bob Rasmussen was pastor of North Presbyterian Church when Ministry with Community was starting. He’s a friend and set me on the right path. I worked with Ann Marston on allocations at United Way. She was a strong advocate of nonprofit organizations and knew their importance to the community. My husband, Sandy Lipsey, has the ability to listen deeply. He helps me get to the other side of the hysteria. And my parents: my dad taught at WMU and my mom worked with substance abuse prevention. I grew up during a wild and wonderful time when you needed to take sides, and my parents taught me to be on the side of social justice – the side of “we,” not “me.”

What’s an average day like for you at work?

First, there’s my rev-up time when I touch base across the organization on items of the day. There’s time spent interfacing with the board – as a whole, in committees, or in individual meetings – as we continue navigating the transition from grassroots to stable, dynamic organization. I spend time on fund development: writing newsletter articles or thank you notes, visiting donors, or talking to groups about KLF. Finally, there’s checking progress on items I’ve delegated to other staff.

What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?

The primary challenge: people are food insecure. We’re doing more advocacy than ever. We no longer talk about putting ourselves out of business, because the situation is not improving. For example, how do you stand up to cuts proposed in the Farm Bill? It’s the injustice of it all.

How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?

ONEplace provides incredible resources for the nuts and bolts of nonprofits. I also stay connected with national organizations – the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America – plus regional ones as well – the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank Council of South Central Michigan. I’m more an observer now but did spend time on the board of the Food Bank of Michigan. I also keep in touch with others that provide emergency relief services in our area.

Advice for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?

Listen, listen, listen, listen. I’m centered in the belief that it is with others that we find wisdom, perseverance, and strength to carry on. The other piece is to have fun with each other – with staff, with volunteers, even with the board. We’re all a part of this community. We’re all in this together.

What do you geek (i.e., what hobby or outside interests do you really like)?

I’m a potter (I make weird pots). I also garden, read mystery novels, and spend time with my grandchildren.

Anything else?

Push out your timeframe. Find one place to naggle at the edge. What does it look like over a long period of time? Accomplish something today and then build upon that.

ThomA

Building Connections

As the folks gathered for a recent ONEplace event, one participant told me of a collaboration he and another participant would be doing this spring. The collaboration came about, he said, because they met at ONEplace.

My response: “BOO-YAH!”

Connecting you with your nonprofit colleagues sits at the core of our operation. At every event, you’re invited to meet the other participants, talk with them, and discover how you can resource one another. Be it in small groups, workshop discussions, Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gatherings, or on LinkedIn, the connections you make will serve your career, strengthen your organization, and increase your community impact.

How do you connect with your colleagues – within your organization, within similar organizations, within the wider nonprofit community? How could you benefit from increasing the number or frequency of your connections?

Mark your calendars for our next Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection LIVE gathering, Wednesday, February 12 at 4:30 pm. Arrange to meet someone there, plan to introduce yourself to someone. In other words, make it work for you.

ThomA

Just ONEthing - Jan 2014

Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.

This months’ insight comes from our Annual Reports People Actually Read webinar. During the webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller (Nonprofit Marketing Guide) presented the sobering fact that the vast majority of people receiving our annual reports will spend only 30-to-90 seconds with them before putting them in the recycle bin. Ouch!

This led into an excellent presentation and discussion on how to best use annual reports. Since there are no regulations or requirements governing nonprofit annual reports, they may focus on connecting with the target audience – commonly donors. Her two main guidelines: frame the report with one main thing to be remembered and keep the report short, personal, and timely.

More information may be found at Kivi’s webpage devoted to annual reports. Also, this webinar (like many that we present) may be viewed individually at the library. Simply call ONEplace to set an appointment (269-553-7910).

ThomA